How cool is singer Steve Perry? That depends on who you ask. Some rock critics have made a career of skewering Perry and his arena-rock buddies Journey on the end of their ball point pens. Great moments in Journey reviews include the time a wiseacre said Perry sang like a drill sergeant on the group's live album.
For a real unbiased opinion, Perry thinks you should ask the fans. "I don't read reviews, but the other guys in the band go crazy, they read them every day. Sometimes it'll make their day. Other times they will show up at a soundcheck and I can already tell, 'Oh, it was a bad one.'
"But the crowd loved the show and we got two encores. That's all the review I need. And I don't have to wait for it to be typed and printed."
Perry isn't waiting for the verdict to come in on his current solo album, "Street Talk", either. As he sits shooting the breeze in the New York office of his record company, the single "Oh, Sherrie" has leap-frogged into the Top 20 with the album not far behind.
Okay, you think, just what the world needs another big rock star solo album. But for Perry, this was a dream that came true only with a lot of hard work. He co-wrote all the songs, produced the record and financed it himself. And its success, he claims, proves he's got every right to be on the charts as well as Boy George and his well dressed crowd.
"The music business is always in a state of flux, always moving. All those styles and ideas come in and affect people, just as I know Journey has affected some people. But Boy George is a very talented guy. I don't care what he looks like. That's just another part of his street credibility.
"Just remember, when you're the underdog, you're loved. When you're successful, people go off to other groups. Or they don't like you because it's not cool. And that's nothing new. That comes from the '60s."
So does Perry, in a way. When asked about his favorite singers and records, he fires off a list that is mostly old Motown and British blues-rock (Free, Led Zeppelin). But Perry, 35, a California native who actually started out as a drummer, describes himself as "a radio person, a button-pusher" who currently digs Culture Club, the Romantics and R&B smoothie Ray Parker, Jr. To research a few lines about Jimi Hendrix in "Captured By The Moment" on his solo album, Perry went out and bought an entire catalog of Hendrix records.
The way Perry made "Street Talk" also says a lot about his personality. Written in two weeks and recorded in eight days after only four days of rehearsal, it's typical of Perry's nervous energy and twitchy restlessness. He spends most of this interview pulling apart a Styrofoam coffee cup and stabbing it with a pencil.
"I can't stop," he laughs, shaking his head of jet-black hair. "My mother says I was born in a hurry. My legs and fingers are always going, I'm like that rabbit in "Alice In Wonderland" who's always looking at his watch. I purposely left mine off today because I'd just be sitting here looking at it, wondering what I'd have to do next."
So what, if anything, does Steve Perry do to relax?
"I don't relax. I've been on the road with Journey for fourteen months. I bought this new house and I was in it for one week during those 14 months. But once I do my video for this album, I'm just gonna go fishing or something."
He'll probably sit there by the pond, constantly looking at his watch wondering when the fish are going to bite.
"And when they do, I'm gonna yell 'You're late!'"
© Star Hits, August 1984, Pilot Communications.